Taken 3: Silly, Dull, Repetitive Chapter in Liam Neeson’s Trilogy

Artistically speaking, Taken 3, the third (and hopefully last) panel in the franchise that began in 2008 and made Liam Neeson a bona fide international action star, is the weakest, a contrived and formulaic actioner, in which every element, including the gifted leading man, look and sound tired.

Neeson reprises his role as Bryan Mills, an ex-CIA-ops agent, who in the first film tried to save his daughter from Albanian sex traffickers.

In the first act of the story, Mills is seen buying a giant stuffed panda for the birthday of daughter Kim (Maggie Grace). He still treats her as a child, even though she lives with her boyfriend and may be pregnant.

Mills still has strong feelings for his ex-wife Lenore (Famke Janssen), whose marriage to the wealthy businessman Stuart (Dougray Scott) may be troubled, opening door for a reunion. However, things take turn to the worse, when Lenore is found dead in his bed, and Mills is framed for the murder.

In the previous chapters, Mills’s killing sprees have been motivated–he was driven by goals larger then himself, such as concern for the safety of his family. But Taken 3 is more concerned with revenge for revenge’s sake than with Mills’ need and wish to protect those who need him.

Thematically, there are touches of one of Hitchcock’s recurrent motifs, the wrongly accused man who needs to prove his innocence before it’s too late, but these elements are superficially treated and lack any urgency–or purpose.

Forest Whitaker is totally wasted as Franck Dotzler, the police inspector who leads the manhunt. The part is so poorly conceived that at times Franck himself is not sure what he is doing or why he is pursuing Mills; for a cop he relies too much on the legal courts.

The path-crossing of Mills and Franck is a rather pointless scene lifted from the far superior encounter between Tommy Lee Jones and Harrison Ford’s the 1993 The Fugitive, where Jones’s says “I don’t care” when Ford claims to be innocence

What elevated the previous chapters was a stronger, if familiar plot, care for the characters, including Janssen’s Lenore, who is very much missed here.

In this silly picture, Mills doesn’t even get to employ his particular set of skills, except for one ridiculous scene where he imposes on his daughter a particular yogurt drink so that she’ll need to use a particular restroom (no  more can be revealed about this point).

Director Olivier Megaton’s rapid-fire cutting is meant to bring some kinetic energy to the action, but instead, it comes across as a gimmick to cover up the huge holes in the plot.

The always reliable Neeson seems more tired and bored by the proceedings than sweaty and exhausted from being mechanically pursued and chased.